Sociality through Reason? Or the other way around?

24. October 2019

What happens when an anthropologist and a philosopher enter a dialogue? According to LFE- employee Benjamin Reimann, the two disciplines can complement each other very well in human cooperation. Both answer the question of the connection between human reason and sociality differently.

How can it be that people create works of art like the Mona Lisa, write great orchestral suites or poems? No other close relatives of humans are capable of such cognitive achievements. What can be the reason for this? The anthropologist Michael Tomasello answers this with the sociality of humans. They are capable of all this because they have joined forces with other people. In his dissertation, Benjamin Reimann juxtaposes Tomasello with a very well-known historical personality in order to enter a dialogue with him: Aristotle.

Although there are almost 2,300 years between the two men, they are united by the question they have asked themselves: How do sociality and reason relate to each other in human nature? “Both claim that humans are essentially social creatures and need community with others in order to survive,” said Reimann about the two actors in his publication. But that’s where unity ends: Michael Tomasello takes the view that human thinking is shaped by social action, in other words, that human thinking cannot be explained without the social group that belongs to it. Opposite him stands Aristotle: his considerations suggest that our way of living together is always determined by our thinking.

The exchange between Aristotle and Tomasello was written as part of Benjamin Reimann’s dissertation. This dissertation deals with interdisciplinary research and how it can be successful.  “I look from a philosophical perspective at how we can conduct interdisciplinary research on people in general (and children in particular) without talking past each other from our many disciplines and actually talking about one and the same thing instead. This is how Reimann describes his research. In his opinion, the question of cooperation is very suitable for this topic. Two important representatives from two different research directions meet and exchange ideas at eye level.

His conclusion after the discussion: “The question cannot be finally decided. We must understand sociality and reason as two sides of the same medal in order to be able to understand human thinking.

Here is the link to the original study: https://journals.qucosa.de/ejournals/arbeitstitel/article/view/3307

Picture: pixabay

Madlen Bartholmeß
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